Phase 36 - Phantom Island

Mobile Suit Gundam SEED TWILIGHT

Phase 36 - Phantom Island

March 20th, CE 77 - Earth Alliance battleship Charlemagne, Strait of Hormuz, Indian Ocean

"Charlemagne closing to stern!"

In the Minerva's captain's chair, Meyrin Hawke steeled herself, watching her hulking adversary advance through the sky with its wealth of beam cannons glowing. The fleet was busy with the Infinite Justice and Savior, but there was still the towering Phantom Island waiting behind them; and the Charlemagne was clearly not letting them go anywhere anyway.

"Malik, I'll leave the evasive maneuvers to you," Meyrin said, sitting back and cracking her knuckles. "Chen, make your shots count. Aim for the armaments first of all."

The Minerva groaned as Malik guided it into battle, and Meyrin sat back to watch as her titanic foe swung toward her, beam cannons angling to open fire. The Minerva jerked upward, letting the shots sail by underneath

"Tristans, Isolde, fire!"

The Minerva's guns boomed in response, but Meyrin frowned in frustration as the shots dissipated harmlessly against the Charlemagne's armor. The Isolde's shells went sailing uselessly over the ship's bridge tower as it ducked down, and a moment later her intuition spiked

"Malik, descend!"

Too late a triple-barreled blast from the Charlemagne plowed through the Minerva's Isolde, blowing it apart. Meyrin scowled at the Charlemagne, and her stricken ship banked to the side as the Charlemagne opened fire with a punishing beam barrage.

"They're not letting up," Abbey grunted as the Minerva shook. "Captain "

"I know," Meyrin shot back. "Malik, bank us back towards the Charlemagne when you get the chance "

She was cut off again as this time a beam plowed through the tip of the Minerva's starboard wing, rattling the entire vessel and nearly knocking it out of the air.

"Damage to starboard wing!" Burt called out. "Captain "

Meyrin clenched her teeth as the Minerva swung around, opening fire with its Tristans only for its shots to once again bounce off the Charlemagne's armor.

"That's not just laminated armor," Abbey grumbled from the XO's station. "Do they have a positron reflector too?"

"Only one way to make sure," Meyrin answered. "Charge the Tannhäuser!"

The Destiny brought both its swords crashing down onto the Strike Noir's beam blades, driving the black mobile suit back. It fired back with its railguns, but the Destiny plowed through the shells and smashed the Noir's blades again only to be fired on an instant later by the Blu Duel and Verde Buster's beam guns.

"Shams, Mudie, cover fire!" Sven shouted. "I will close in!"

The Noir went charging forward, parrying each of the Destiny's sword blows but finding its own counterblows parried as well. The Noir backflipped over a sword stroke and charged for a killing stab, only for its left-hand blade to be knocked wide and its right-hand blade stopped by the Destiny's two swords.

"Mudie, now!"

The Blu Duel swept in behind the Destiny, saber drawn back

Inside the Destiny, Shinn's eyes flashed as he caught sight of the Blu Duel. "Don't think you can always pull that off!" he snapped with a crash, the Destiny rocketed skyward over the Blu Duel's saber swipe, and came back down to kick the Blu Duel in the back and knock it out of the sky. An instant later, the Noir was upon him with both blades slammed against the Destiny's swords, knocking it back.

The Destiny surged forward, blades crashing down on the Noir and driving it back. A moment later, the Blu Duel somersaulted over the falling Noir, sabers held high, only to be punched back by another powerful sword blow. Beams from the Verde Buster lanced out of the heavens, but the Destiny dodged them effortlessly and rocketed into the sky, pursued by the Noir and Blu Duel.

"Fall already!" screamed Mudie, as the Blu Duel opened fire. The Destiny rocketed above its shots and swung its swords up, blocking a pair of sword strikes from the Noir. With a crash, the Destiny kicked the Noir in the stomach, knocking it back, and Shinn charged towards his stunned foe with a scream

In the Noir's cockpit, Sven's eyes flashed as the seed fell, and the Noir pounded the Destiny's blades with its own. Shinn surged forward, but the Noir blocked his strokes and kicked his machine back in the face, driving it back and with a crash, Sven brought his right-hand blade down through the Destiny's left-hand sword, slicing it in two.

"His movement is different..." Shinn growled, pulling back and hurling the broken sword into the Noir's face. The black Gundam pursued as the Destiny backpedaled, and they slammed together in another swordfight. "Did he ?!"

The Noir surged forward, throwing the Destiny back and letting the other two machines shower him with beam fire. Shinn pulled back behind his beam shields, sheathing his sword in favor of two beam boomerangs, but as he sent them hurtling forward, the Noir was there to chop them out of the sky.

"Sven..." Mudie started, cut off when the Noir charged again. "He's fighting differently now...?"

"Stella, flank it on the other side!" Rau called, as the Legend and Gaia dodged desperately, the unstoppable Gelzuge pouring beam fire after them. "I see the Alliance has not been idle..."

The Gelzuge brought down its claws onto the Legend's beam shield, driving the gray Gundam back. Rau ground his teeth and sent the Legend spiraling skyward, dodging a wealth of beam fire. The Gaia swept in from the side, showering the Gelzuge with fire from her rifle; the Gelzuge wheeled around, swiping at the Gaia with its claw and snapping the rifle in two.

"You...!" The Gaia charged, drawing a saber and bringing it down with a shriek on the Gelzuge's claw. The hulking mobile armor threw the Gaia back, then whirled around again to pound the Legend with beams. The Gelzuge swiped again with its claws, knocking the Legend around again.

The Gaia returned with a crash, slamming its saber down onto the Gelzuge's claw and firing its thrusters.

"Stella will fight it!" Stella cried, shooting a glance towards Rau. "Go protect the ship!"

Rau frowned at Stella, studying her intense and determined face for a moment, before nodding. "I will leave the Gelzuge to you," he said. "Call in if you need help." The Legend took off with a flash.

The Gaia went hurtling back as the Gelzuge shoved it away with its claws and pummeled it with more beam fire. Stella squinted through the lights, finding her opening, and charged again only for the Gelzuge to throw her back with another claw swipe.

"You think you're scary?!" Stella snapped, throwing the Gaia through another wave of beam fire. The Gelzuge shuddered as a cloud of missiles took off from its armor, arcing down towards the Gaia. "You're not scary at all!"

The Gaia shredded the missile formation with a CIWS burst, but the flashing explosions and smoke were all the Gelzuge needed to storm in close and bring its claw down with a crash onto the Gaia's shield, shattering it like glass.

"That's not enough!" Stella snapped with a flash she drew the Gaia's saber in her left hand and slashed forward with it, slicing the Gelzuge's left-hand rifle in two. She whirled around, only to have the Phase Shift armor pummeled as the Gelzuge's anti-aircraft guns opened fire.

The Gelzuge came storming in, claws upraised and a beam saber held high in the Gelzuge's left hand. The sabers crashed, but the Gelzuge's massive size sent the Gaia staggering back.

"Just 'cuz you're bigger than me..." Stella started, darting to the side as the Gelzuge opened fire again.

"Well, I guess if I were me I would've deployed one of these things too," Sting Oakley grunted as the Chaos reeled under a wave of firepower from the hulking Zamzazar, "but that doesn't mean I have to like it!'

The Zamzazar took a mighty swing with its right-hand claw, nearly catching the Chaos' leg. Sting backpedaled and opened fire with his beam rifle, only for his shots to land harmlessly on the shimmering positron reflector. The Zamzazar pummeled the Chaos with beam fire again, driving it back behind its shield, and opened fire with a punishing energy cannon barrage.

"Dammit, my shield's not gonna block that," Sting snarled. The Chaos lunged up over the blasts and detached its gunbarrels, showering the Zamzazar with beams and missiles only to see them all slam harmlessly against the reflector. A pall of smoke rose around the mobile armor, and Sting seized his chance to charge, igniting both of the Chaos' leg blades

A moment later, the Zamzazar burst out of the smoke and smashed the Chaos' shield to pieces, throwing the green Gundam towards the sea. Sting cursed as he tried to regain control, only to see the Zamzazar on the warpath above him, claw raised

"Fuck you, motherfucker!"

With a characteristic war cry, the Abyss Gundam burst out of the water, pushing a damaged Deep Forbidden in front of it. A mighty kick sent the Deep Forbidden spiraling towards the Zamzazar but the mobile armor smashed the mobile suit aside with an annoyed claw swipe and backed away as the Abyss opened fire.

"Man, I need to save your ass again?" Auel laughed. "You're slipping, Sting."

"Shut the fuck up and fight," Sting shot back, the Chaos switching its rifle to its left hand and drawing a beam saber with its now-free right. The two Gundams rocketed apart as the Zamzazar opened fire again, and Auel returned the fire in spades, only to be thrown back by a beam barrage from the Zamzazar's turrets.

"I hate these fucking things," Auel snapped, the Abyss reeling behind a storm of firepower. Sting swept in with a charge, beam saber held high

With a shriek of twisting metal, the Zamzazar slammed its right-hand claw onto the Chaos' leg and hurled it towards the sea, snapping the leg off at the knee. Sting screamed as his Gundam careened towards the sea and the Zamzazar leveled off its guns for a killing blow, opening fire

As the shots raced in, the Abyss rammed the Chaos aside to take the blow, shearing off the lower half of its left-hand shoulder shell and blowing away its arm at the elbow and leg at the knee. Auel cursed as the Gundam shuddered, as though in pain, and Sting seized his chance to fire back with the Chaos' beam rifle.

"Auel!" Sting called. "Are you alright?"

The damaged Abyss flashed its eyes furiously. "Oh, this guy is gonna pay for that!"

The Infinite Justice rocked as the enemy mobile armor's beams pounded the Justice's beam shield, and Athrun Zala risked a glance towards the Savior, spiraling through the air in mobile armor mode to dodge the Zamzazar's furious barrage. He flicked his eyes back towards the mobile armor and lunged aside, barely avoiding a punishing claw swipe. The Justice swept in, beam blade alight, only to see it stopped by the Zamzazar's left-hand claw and Athrun went back on the defensive, rocketing upward as the Zamzazar opened fire.

"Get around behind it!" Athrun instructed. "It can't focus on two directions at once...!"

The Savior whirled in from behind as the Justice dodged claw swipes and beam blasts, and with a scream, Viveka charged only for the Zamzazar's rearward guns to angle up and open fire. The Savior went back on the defensive, with thick black scars torn over its armor.

Athrun scowled and vaulted over another beam barrage, somersaulting over the Zamzazar's head and pounding it with beam shots from above. "Now!"

The Savior went barreling in, beam saber held high, but the saber stopped cold against the Zamzazar's rear right-hand claw.

"That's not all!" Viveka snapped, the Savior's guns swinging up into position

And with a crash, the Zamzazar's left-hand claw smashed through them both, flinging the Savior towards the sea.

"Goddammit!" cried Viveka, jockeying to regain control. The Zamzazar came storming towards her, claws open

Instead of death, the sky split in two as the Infinite Justice came barreling out of the sky, ramming the Zamzazar in the side and knocking it wide. The Zamzazar flung the Justice aside with its arm, turning its guns towards the red Gundam and piercing its beam rifle with a shot

The seed burst, Athrun's eyes flashed, the Justice slalomed through the beam blasts, and hurled its sparking beam rifle into the Zamzazar's face. As the weapon exploded, the Justice burst through the smoke with both its beam sabers connected, bringing the saber down with a crash. The Zamzazar blocked the Justice's strokes with expert precision, throwing the Gundam back again with sheer force.

"How can it fight like that at close range?!" Viveka cried only for Athrun's face to flicker onto her monitor.

"Stay back," he warned. "I'll handle this."

Viveka scowled back. "Quit treating me like a kid," she snapped. "I can still "

"I don't care!" Athrun yelled. "I've had enough friends tell me that they don't need my help, and they're dead now!" The Justice rocketed into the sky as the Zamzazar gave chase. "Hate me if you want, but at least you'll be alive for it, and that's all I ask for!"

The Zamzazar charged again, and the Justice whipped up its saber to fight back.

"I'LL KILL YOU!"

The words rang through the Twilight's cockpit as the black Gundam went reeling under a rain of firepower from the raging Calamity Gundam. Emily narrowed her eyes at it only for the instinct to scream at her, and she ducked aside to dodge a beam shot from the white and black Morrigan Gundam.

"Pretty freaky, isn't it?!" cackled the second woman, letting the Calamity surge in close with a beam blast. Emily screamed as the Twilight rocked, and the Calamity rammed her with its sub-wing. "Just look at her, little girl! She's got no mind of her own! She's an animal! She can't even follow orders!"

Emily clenched her teeth as the Calamity attacked again, taking off over the blasts. "Who are you?!"

The second woman grinned like a beast. "Well, aren't you a cute one!" she laughed. "I'm going to enjoy this!"

The Calamity charged again, beam cannons blazing and forcing Emily back on the defensive. Her eyes flicked around anxiously, looking for a way out, but the Calamity was too pressing a threat

"Anyway, I guess you deserve to know who's going to kill you," the woman went on with a grin, "so allow me to introduce myself, Miss Angel of Death!"

The Calamity slammed the Twilight again, throwing it towards the sea and pummeling it with ram cannon shells. The Twilight rocketed aside, leveling off its beam rifle only for another shot to come streaking from the sky, blowing it out of the Twilight's hand.

"I'm Monique du Prey," the woman said, "and you're Unit Zero-One!"

The Morrigan came down with a crash, punching the Twilight back into the Calamity's range. Emily whirled around to face her, beam saber in hand, only to be forced to duck aside as the Calamity opened fire again.

"KILL ME!" the Calamity's pilot shrieked. "PLEASE! KILL ME!"

"I hope your conversation with the ensign here has been a fruitful one," Monique went on, "because she's pretty much everything you're meant to be."

The Calamity slammed into the Twilight again, leveling off its beam cannons. Emily's eyes narrowed as she saw her chance, sawing off both cannons with a flash. The Calamity's Scylla gun fired, but the Twilight ducked aside, losing its solid shield in the process. Emily whirled around, beam saber raised to strike the Calamity's exposed back only for another barrage from the Morrigan to stop her.

"See, all the ensign really has going for her now is her ability to fight," Monique continued. The Calamity hit the Twilight with another punishing ram cannon salvo. "And that's only gonna last as long as the drug does. And that's kinda like you, when you think about it."

"How do you know ?!" Emily started, only to be stopped as the Twilight quaked again under a bazooka salvo.

"I know all about you, Unit Zero-One," Monique laughed back. "Daughter of Gerhardt and Lorelei von Oldendorf, taken at age four for advanced combat training. Secretly trained in hand-to-hand combat, black ops, firearms, mobile armor, and mobile suit combat. Repeatedly subjected to Atlantic Fed memory alteration equipment to keep you from ever suspecting a thing. Sound familiar?"

Emily ground her teeth as the nerve was struck. "That can't be..."

The Calamity pounded her Gundam again, throwing it back. "Oh, but it is," giggled Monique. "You know what I'm talking about, sweetie. The weird memories of being in a hospital room with doctors talking about how you can't do the things you've been doing? The crazy combat skills you never knew you had? The way it comes so easily to you, killing the Alliance's aces and officers? I'm ringing a bell here, aren't I?"

"You're lying...!" Emily moaned, cut off again by the Calamity.

"KILL ME!" the Calamity's pilot shrieked.

"Isn't it strange how everyone's calling you the Angel of Death?" Monique laughed. "Like it's your destiny or something! Oh, if only they knew!"

"You're lying!" Emily screamed back.

"But you know Iím not!"

Emily grimaced as the Calamity opened fire again, desperately dodging its shots. "I'm not like that..."

Phantom Island

"Minerva has sustained damage. Gundams engaged."

Crayt sat back with a grin in the cockpit of her Euclid as it warmed up in the hangar. The Minerva was trapped and facing a war of attrition that it could not possibly win. O'Brien could handle the control room now, and Monique would take down the Twilight, Sven would take down the Destiny, and Danilov would take down the Minerva.

"Marshal," the hangar operator started, "course clear. Timing is yours."

Crayt smiled. There was one more loose end to tie up, and it would be so sweet to do so.

"Crayt Markav, Euclid, taking off!"

The Euclid lurched forward with a roar.

Now then, Rau Le Creuset, you have nowhere to run.

Swords met swords as the Strike Noir and Destiny Gundam slugged it out, spiraling down towards Havilland's flailing fleet. The Noir slalomed past the Destiny's furious sword stroke, wrapping its foot-mounted anchors around the Destiny's leg and swinging the Gundam down towards one of the smoldering destroyers below.

"Shit !" Shinn started, firing the thrusters and taking off as the Noir opened fire with its railguns. An instant later, the Blu Duel was upon him, beam saber raised Shinn blocked the blow with his sword and shouldered the Blu Duel aside. The Verde Buster showered him with beam fire and missiles, and before he could stop them, they were already pounding the Destiny's Phase Shift armor and throwing it towards the sea.

The Noir burst through the smoke, bringing its swords down with a crash. Shinn snarled in fury and hurled the Noir back with sheer force, charging through and knocking the Noir back again.

Shinn tightened his fists around the Destiny's controls as the Noir came shrieking back in.

The Legend's sensors were a second behind Rau's senses as he whirled around to face his latest opponent. The pressure was unmistakable, and Rau could not help but grin at the gleaming white Euclid mobile armor fast approaching.

"How do you like my little trap, Rau Le Creuset?" cackled Crayt Markav as the Euclid swung into battle. The Legend took off, dodging beam blasts.

"Pride cometh before the fall, Sister Markav," Rau answered with a grin.

"Use all the rhetorical flourish you want," Crayt laughed, the Euclid firing off a volley of missiles. "Nothing will save you now. This is not the wrath of humans, but the wrath of God!"

The Legend pitched towards the ocean, pulling up and cutting down the missiles with CIWS fire, only to be forced on the defensive again by another beam salvo from the Euclid. "It seems to be just humans to me," Rau remarked.

"And that is where you are wrong!" Crayt cried, the Euclid pitching down after him. "I am the servant of God, and here and today, I shall execute His will and destroy you!" The Euclid tore over the water's surface, pursuing the dodging Legend. "You are mere and pathetic, because you manipulate only the world of flesh and sin! But now you are hunted by angels!"

Rau grinned psychotically even as the Legend took a barrage of fire to its beam shields. "Interesting that you should mention angels," he said. "Perhaps those angels include the one in our company?"

"Powerless," scoffed Crayt, "and soon to be disposed of just like you!"

Rau's grin only widened. "I wonder about that."

"So, tell me about your mother," laughed Monique, as the Twilight reeled under the Calamity's punishing railgun barrage. "I hear she was a wonderful woman. Pity about her early death."

Emily's eyes flashed angrily. "Shut up!" she shot back. "You don't know anything about her!"

Monique sighed airily as the Calamity rammed the Twilight again. "Are we gonna have to do this the hard way, baby?" she asked. "So do you want to know who really killed her?"

Emily glowered up past the Calamity, at the Morrigan, even as she deflected the Calamity's beam blasts. "Shut up!"

"I know it must haunt you every night, to know that she died and to not really have any answers," Monique went on. "But I've got those answers. You wanna know?"

The Calamity charged again, its Scylla cannon blazing. Emily ground her teeth, seizing her chance to lunge beneath the blasts and destroy the cannon with a quick horizontal cut. The Calamity pummeled her in response with bazooka shells.

"They had your sister first," laughed Monique, "because of those powers. Those powers of yours came from your mother, and they had your sister to pass them on. But poor little Viveka was a failure, so they had you!"

Emily reeled as the Twilight went careening towards the sea, showered with shells from the Calamity, and she struggled to wrap her mind around the idea. Her mother, with Newtype powers, and herself, born to carry them on ?

"But your mother didn't take that whole childbirth thing too well," continued Monique, "and spent seven years languishing before she finally died." Her eyes flashed vindictively. "So you wanna know who killed your dear mother?!"

The Calamity opened fire again, as Emily looked up at the Morrigan.

"It was you!"

The shells impacted, the world spun, and the seed burst.

Filling the sky with a screen of twisting metal, the Twilight burst out of the smoke, anti-ship sword drawn, and plunged the blade into the Calamity's cockpit. Without stopping, Emily left the blade skewered through the Calamity and charged, drawing both her beam sabers and slamming them together to form a shining beam sword.

"SHUT UP!"

The Morrigan drew a beam saber and brought it down with a crash, stopping the Twilight cold. The black Gundam's beam wings flashed to life, and the Twilight threw back the Morrigan.

Monique grinned. "This is more like it!"

"You don't know anything!" Emily screamed, as the Twilight swung furiously at the Morrigan, and the Morrigan expertly deflected all its blows. "You don't know her!"

"Jeez, just imagine if I'd told a 'your momma' joke," Monique giggled. "You can yell at me all you want, darling, but it won't change anything. You are what you are and what you are is a weapon!"

The Morrigan stunned the Twilight with a punishing kick to the chest. Emily grunted as her Gundam went reeling, and a moment later, two long guns folded out from behind the Morrigan's back, and the Twilight staggered back under a point-blank railgun shot.

"Is this all you've got?" Monique asked, as the Morrigan closed in. "I saw those reports from Novorossiysk. You kicked ass. What's going on here?"

The Morrigan brought its saber down, driving the Twilight back. Emily surged forward to throw the Morrigan off guard, but the Morrigan responded with another kick, before peppering the Twilight's armor with beam machinegun rounds and scarring its armor.

"You're disappointing me here, baby," she went on, grinning like a maniac. "I mean, I come here all excited for a real fight and you just sit here crying and letting me knock you around?" The Morrigan charged again, pounding its way into a swordfight.

"Shut up!" Emily snarled. "I don't care what you say!"

The Twilight stabbed forward with its sword, aiming for the Morrigan's cockpit, only for the Morrigan to jet aside and deliver a jarring backhand to the Twilight's face.

"It's cute how you keep refusing to be what you are," Monique said, "like you've got a choice in it or something." The Twilight swung around, only for the Morrigan to bring down its saber down with a crash, tearing a sparking gash in the Gundam's torso. Emily screamed as shrapnel filled her cockpit, tearing over her, and grabbed her shoulder as it slowly oozed red. "What's even cuter, though, is that even though you keep refusing to be what you are, you're still doing it anyway!"

Emily blinked away the blood, and winced as the stinging pain told her of a bleeding cut on the side of her head. On the auxiliary screen, Monique saw the blood and her eyes flashed like an animal.

"Oh, such a shame I had to screw up that pretty face," she laughed. "So have you had enough yet, or am I gonna have to screw up that pretty face some more?"

Emily's eyes flashed, and the Twilight charged.

Battleship Minerva

"Parsifal, fire!"

The Minerva rumbled as its missile launchers came to life, only for the Charlemagne to cut them out of the sky meters from their launch tubes with a CIWS burst. The ship lurched as Malik threw it into a dive, barely avoiding another beam barrage.

"They have us pinned !" Abbey started, only to be cut off by another roar, and the Minerva rattled from explosions below. Meyrin groaned at the sight of the remains of the Alliance fleet below, pumping shells into the Minerva's armor.

"There's got to be a way out of this," she murmured. "Chen, prepare the Tannhäuser!"

Too late the Charlemagne's own missiles lifted off as the Tannhäuser's compartment swung open, and with a thunderous explosion that sent the winged warship shuddering back, the Tannhäuser exploded under a hail of warheads.

Meyrin stared ruefully through the smoke, at the Minerva's ruined prow. And even then, only for a moment because an instant later the sky around the Charlemagne flashed gold.

"Captain, energy spike in the Charlemagne! They're charging something!"

"Malik, evade!"

The Minerva groaned and struggled against gravity, rising into the air only for a monstrous golden blast to lance out from the Charlemagne's prow, slicing by underneath the Minerva's stern and ripping the armor open. Another sickening explosion rocked the ship, and before Malik could report it, Meyrin knew that the Charlemagne had taken out her ship's levitator.

"Captain, we're losing altitude! Power outputs dropping!"

"Close off the bulkheads!" Abbey cried. "All hands, prepare for impact!" She turned towards Meyrin. "Captain, now what?"

Are we going to die? Meyrin wondered, and then shook her head. No! We're not dying here! Not yet! I'm not going to lose Talia's ship like this!

"We still have the Tristans!" she shouted. "Keep the weapons at full power and reroute all other power to the laminated armor and engines! Take it from the auxiliary reactor if you have to! Flank speed!"

The Charlemagne loomed above them, but Meyrin forced down her fear.

The Infinite Justice rocked as the Zamzazar's firepower came crashing against its beam shield, and Athrun turned his dull, lightless eyes towards the hulking mobile armor. It came crashing down towards him, claws agape, and brought them down on the beam shield with a crash, throwing the Justice back.

"Viveka, now!"

The Savior lunged up from behind and hurled its shield forward, and then swung its rifle up to open fire, bouncing beam bolts off the shield and pounding the Zamzazar's underside. The mobile armor fired off a barrage from its rear-facing guns, blowing the Savior's rifle out of its hand

"Not yet!" The Savior charged forward, diving through the Zamzazar's firepower, drawing its second beam saber. The Zamzazar punched forward with its rear right-hand claw, tearing off the Savior's right arm at the elbow but not before Viveka plunged her left-hand saber into the Zamzazar's claw and ripped the mobile armor's entire arm off. The Zamzazar batted the crippled Savior aside with its claw, whirling around with smoke pouring from its wound

"Forgetting someone?!" Athrun roared, and the sky split in two as the Infinite Justice came screaming out of the heavens, and with a spine-jarring shriek, cut off both of the Zamzazar's front two claws with a backhanded saber swipe. The Zamzazar belched smoke, its remaining gun turning towards the Justice

And too late, as the Justice plunged its beam blade into the Zamzazar's cockpit, ripping the mobile armor's upper surface open and pouring a volley of beam cannon shots into the opening. The Zamzazar sparked and flailed as it sank towards the sea and finally exploded.

Athrun watched his foe die with heavy breath, and looked up at Viveka's mangled Savior. All it had left was its CIWS and a beam saber clutched in its left hand. How could she still fight like that?

And the Savior lurched forward as something struck it from behind. Athrun turned his sights towards the horizon, grinding his teeth at the sight of another Windam squadron, the leader wielding a bazooka. The Justice leapt in front of the Savior, beam shield deployed as the Windams opened fire.

"Stay behind me," Athrun instructed. "I'll handle them."

"Athrun " Viveka began.

"Do what I say, goddammit!" Athrun shot back. "You've got half a mobile suit left and you still want to fight?! All you'll do is get yourself killed!" The Justice rocked as the Windams concentrated their fire on its beam shield. "Now, stay back!"

The Justice's eyes flashed, and it charged as the Windams closed in.

"I can't get close...!" growled Stella as the Gaia Gundam spiraled through a wave of firepower. The titanic Gelzuge before her came barreling in close, beam saber alight in its hand, and brought it down onto the Gaia's saber with a crash. Sparks flying, the Gelzuge swung its saber to the side, slashing the Gaia's beam rifle in two and blowing it out of the Gaia's hand. The Gelzuge's left-hand claw came down, beam blade alight

Instead, the Gaia thrust out its free right hand, catching the claw below its beam blade. With a scream, Stella threw the throttle wide open, rocketing up into the air. The Gelzuge lurched as the Gaia's entire thruster output dragged it up into the sky, and then shuddered as Stella brought her own beam saber down through the claw, tearing it off along with the Gelzuge's left arm.

"I have a home!" Stella screamed, drawing her second beam saber and plunging down towards the Gelzuge. The Gaia quaked as the Gelzuge claimed its left leg at the knee, only to see the Gaia lop off its right-hand claw. "I have friends!" The Gaia quaked again as the Gelzuge shot off the Gaia's right-hand shoulder armor and left-hand hip armor, but the Gelzuge shuddered as the Gaia sawed off its right arm. The Gelzuge fell back, its missile compartments flashing open

Stella's eyes went dull, the Gaia's eyes lit up, and the black Gundam darted down, beam sabers held high.

"I'll protect them!"

The Gelzuge threw sparks and smoke as the Gaia stabbed both its sabers deep into the mobile armor's main body. Screaming all the way, Stella somersaulted over the Gelzuge's torso and slammed her sabers back down into the Gelzuge behind its torso and then took off, ripping the mobile armor in two and letting it die behind her in a thunderous explosion.

Stella glanced over her shoulder at the alarm's insistence, catching sight of yet more enemies. "Even you...!"

The Windams opened fire and charged, and the Gaia charged forward, beam sabers held high. The Windams leveled off bazookas and missiles, opening fire, and the weakened Gaia groaned as its Phase Shift armor took the brunt of the ordnance.

Stella narrowed her eyes, squinting through the smoke and fire. "I have to live...!"

Smoke and sparks flying, the Chaos Gundam struggling to hold the Zamzazar's titanic claw off with only its beam saber. At last the mobile armor overpowered him, throwing him back, and he leveled off his rifle only for the Zamzazar to rip the Chaos' entire left arm off and hurl it aside.

"Goddammit!" Sting cried. "I'm running out of weapons here !"

The Abyss Gundam came streaking out of the heavens, piercing the Zamzazar's positron reflector with its lance and forcing its way through with sheer momentum, stabbing its beam blade into the Zamzazar's front left-hand claw. With a crash, Auel ripped the entire claw off, impaled on the Abyss's lance, and brought it back down with a crash onto the Zamzazar's armor.

"Motherfucker!" screamed Auel, freeing his lance with a kick and tearing a gash in the Zamzazar's armor. The remaining guns turned on him, pounding its shoulder shells and blowing off the Abyss's arm at the elbow. "Fuck you!"

The Abyss backed away, firing its remaining weapons wildly as the Zamzazar swiped at it with its right claw only for the Chaos to come barreling out of nowhere, Sting screaming, and stab the claw through its plasma cannon with a beam saber. The mobile armor shuddered as its right-hand claw exploded and Sting took his opportunity to plunge forward, punching his saber through the positron reflector and into the Zamzazar's cockpit.

"Goddammit, we're not doing good here," Sting breathed, backing away as the Zamzazar broke in two with a fiery explosion. "Auel, you okay in there?"

"For fuck's sake, look at my machine, Sting! Does it look okay to you?!" Auel shot back.

Sting glanced over his shoulder. "Split up!" The two Gundams rocketed apart, as another mobile suit team came streaking in, beam rifles and bazookas blazing. Sting spiraled up above their shots, only for a bazooka shell to catch the Chaos in the face, throwing it back.

Sting clenched his teeth as his Gundam fell, fighting for control. "Dammit...are we gonna die like this?!"

The Twilight went reeling under the Morrigan's beam saber blows, and Emily ground her teeth as the Morrigan closed in for another attack. She stabbed forward with the Twilight's beam sword, only for the Morrigan to expertly parry her blade and slam the sparking Twilight with a kick to the chest.

"Are you afraid to use all that power or something?" Monique asked with a sigh. "By now you should've gone all angry and started fighting back like nobody's business." The Morrigan charged again, pounding its saber repeatedly against the Twilight's sword and driving the faltering black Gundam back. "That's what you did against Shoyou! That's what you did against Meyers! That's what you did in Volgograd and Novorossiysk! You always find ways to tap into that power! So where is it now, huh?!"

The Twilight thrust forward with its arm, hand opened wide and palm cannon activated only for the Morrigan to duck aside and pummel the Gundam with another kick to the back.

"And all these openings you're giving me! You're fighting sloppy, missy!"

Emily whirled around and charged again, beam sword held high only for the Morrigan's saber to stop her blade cold, and the Morrigan fired back with a point-blank railgun burst to send the Twilight flying. Emily howled in pain as she was thrown back into her seat and clutched her throbbing, bleeding shoulder.

"So, are you afraid?!"

The Morrigan snapped up its saber, charging in, blade held high

And then...it was falling. Smoke and fire flashed up around the Morrigan as missiles impacted on its armor, over and over again. The Morrigan swiped furiously at the missiles with its beam saber, only for a storm of firepower to throw it further back.

"What the hell is this ?!" screamed Monique, cut off as more rounds crashed against her machine. "Reinforcements?! Phantom Pain, come in !"

The image on the screen was one of chaos, as red lights flashed, sparks flew, and smoke billowed in Phantom Pain's control room. General O'Brien appeared, a sheen of sweat glistening on his skin around a patch of blood on the side of his head.

"Lieutenant du Prey, get back to Phantom Island! We're under attack!"

"Attack?!" Monique echoed. "What how?!"

She glanced back at the smoking, flaming mountain of Phantom Island and gasped in disbelief, finding it surrounded by six Petrie-class landships and a Lesseps-class. Phantom Island's weapons were blazing, but to no avail because the sky was filled with mobile suits, and all at once, they lit up in a storm of flashing monoeyes.

"Those machines...don't tell me they're ZAFT!"

The Morrigan took off, diving low beneath a barrage of beams and angling for Phantom Island.

In the Twilight, Emily blinked in pain and squeezed her shoulder, as her Gundam rattled. It had stopped falling she looked to the right, and blinked again at the sight of a purple and red mobile suit with a shimmering pink monoeye turned on her. The auxiliary screen flickered to life, and Emily looked up at the wide blue eyes of a boy in a green flight suit.

The boy searched for words for a moment, and Emily could see he was scanning over her injuries. "Emily von Oldendorf, right?" he asked. Emily opened her mouth to speak, but only managed a weak nod. "I'm Isaac Kenner, of the Walker Team. Are you alright in there?"

Emily sat back, easing up the pressure on her shoulder and glancing down at it. She would probably have a scar from this. "I-I think so..." she groaned.

Isaac risked a smile. "Good thing we got here when we did," he said. "I'll take you back to the Minerva, if it's okay with you."

The Minerva. Emily's heart raced as she remembered her beleaguered home. "They're still ?" She shook her head; of course they had found a way through it. "Um, thank you, Isaac..."

Isaac blinked in surprise, and then glanced away awkwardly. "S-Sure." The screen went dark, and Emily leaned forward, squeezing her eyes shut and clutching her bleeding shoulder again, with far too much on her mind.

Battleship Minerva

"What...is all this?"

Abbey and the rest of the bridge crew stared in disbelief as an army of ZAFT mobile suits pounded the stunned Phantom Pain out of the sky and smashed their Island to pieces. What was left of the fleet was rapidly diminishing under the torpedoes of six Vosgulov-class submarines; what was left of Phantom Island and the mobile suit force was similarly dwindling under the guns of seven land battleships and several dozen mobile suits. A Jet Dark Windam came streaking towards the Minerva, beam saber in hand, charging towards the bridge only to be shot out of the squad of ZAKU Warriors.

"It seems, Captain Hawke, that this time, we are the savior," a booming voice laughed. The auxiliary screen lit up with the barrel-chested Oliver Wellington, standing with arms crossed on the bridge of the Lesseps. "Oliver Wellington, commandant of the ZAFT Forces Base Carpentaria, at your service."

Meyrin simply smiled and tried not to breathe a sigh of relief. "I'm glad you're here."

"We would have radioed beforehand, but that would have spoiled our surprise for the black shirts," Wellington continued, nodding his head contemptuously towards Phantom Island. "Are you all alright in there?"

Meyrin shifted uncomfortably in her seat. "They took out our levitator and most of our armaments," she said. "We'll have to get straight to port for some repairs."

Wellington merely grinned. "Understood. We'll take care of the rest."

The cockpit of the Euclid was silent as Crayt Markav surveyed the scene. Breaking off her duel with Rau and rushing back here at the sound of ZAFT's guns, and this was what waited for her? Phantom Island burned on the water, steadily sinking into the sea. So much money, so many resources, so many soldiers, all becoming nothing more than a navigational hazard for the Strait of Hormuz.

The Euclid descended down in front of the control room. Crayt sneered despite the heavy damage, O'Brien remained behind, directing the evacuation and supervising the men as they frantically worked to beat the rising waters. O'Brien looked up in surprise at the sight of Crayt's bone-white Euclid.

"Marshal, we're just about to begin the evacuation," O'Brien reported. "These ZAFT ships must have had Mirage Colloid or something "

"We had the Minerva at death's door, general," Crayt said, her sneer twisting into a furious scowl. "Do you know what happens to those who fail God, general?"

O'Brien blinked as the color drained from his face. "Marshal..."

"They perish!"

The Euclid opened fire, and the control room and all those inside disappeared in a blast of fire. Crayt snarled as she pumped round after round into Phantom Island, until it finally lurched back beneath a thundering explosion.

Crayt let out an even breath, relishing the feeling of the sinners and failures' lives melting away beneath her. Be it God or the Phantom Pain, failure of either was intolerable, and that

The Euclid shuddered as a beam barrage slammed into its side. Crayt snapped her attention to her left, only for the Euclid to take another hit, and its left-hand engine finally gave way and exploded. The broken mobile armor belched smoke and staggered towards the sea. Crayt looked up in disbelief, and found there none other than the Legend Gundam and Rau Le Creuset.

The Legend took off without a word as the Euclid crashed into the water, and Crayt pounded her fist against the console.

Earth Alliance battleship Charlemagne

Ivan Danilov rubbed his temples painfully as he felt a headache coming on. They had the Minerva trapped, their levitator down, their weapons almost all destroyed, their Gundams all damaged or pinned...and still they had an escape. How?

"Our mobile suit force is reporting significant damage and several casualties," Vera reported from the XO console. "And the Minerva and its Gundams are escaping."

Of course they are, Danilov snarled mentally. How could we have not seen this coming? Damn it all.

"Contact Captain Bayan, and order a general retreat. What of Phantom Island?"

Danilov looked up, and Vera simply pointed out the bridge windows. Phantom Island was slipping beneath the waves, somewhere underneath a tower of smoke and fire.

"And the marshal?"

"Her mobile armor is disabled in the water. She's not responding to hails. General O'Brien seems to have been killed as well."

If Phantom Island was destroyed, with General O'Brien dead and Marshal Markav out of action, then that left him in charge. At last, Danilov sat up and shook his head. "Contact all Phantom Pain units. In lieu of the marshal, I am ordering a full retreat. All forces are to proceed to Dubai Naval Station."

As Vera and the bridge crew set about their task, Danilov eyed the smoking Minerva carefully.

Well, Minerva, if there's one thing I've learned today, it's that you are not invincible.

Isaac Kenner, as it turned out, was a mere teenager when he dismounted his BABI mobile suit on the Minerva's deck to help Emily stagger off of the Twilight's zip line. Emily groaned in pain as his hand brushed over her wounded shoulder, and he drew back in surprise.

"That's a lot of blood..." he started. "Um, we better get you to the infirmary or something."

"I'll be okay," Emily insisted. "I've been through worse." She got back to her feet and eased off the pressure on her shoulder, relieved that it wasn't bleeding anymore and there was just burning pain. "Thank you for helping me out back there, by the way," she added with a smile.

Isaac blinked in surprise, and Emily watched as he fumbled for words. "Um, well, it was no big deal, really," he started.

Emily tried not to blush at how easy her newest savior was to read.

"Anyway, um, I have to get back to my ship," Isaac said, gesturing over his shoulder towards one of the Vosgulov submarines cruising alongside the battered Minerva. "Commander Walker's probably gonna kick my ass for taking so long here."

Emily arched an eyebrow as a thought occurred to her. "Tell him you were tending to the Angel of Death," she said, turning towards the hangar while the Minerva's mechanics pulled in her bruised and beaten Twilight.

Isaac smiled and offered a mock salute. "Yes ma'am," he said, and turned back towards his BABI with a beaming grin.

To be continued...